Entering kindergarten at an older age is one early predictor for student success. As Cannon and Lipscomb have stated, “Students who are older when they enter kindergarten have better elementary math and reading scores . . . These effects appear to persist into eighth grade, albeit with smaller magnitudes” (Cannon and Lipscomb 2008, 1). Starting kindergarten at an older age will also allow children to further develop their social and emotional skills and be ready to actively engage in academics at the kindergarten level. Because of the increasing academic demands placed on kindergarten students, there is less and less time to nurture social and emotional skills. Deficiencies in these areas tend to inhibit learning in younger kindergarten students, which causes them to fall behind academically. Joseph Durlak and his colleagues (2011) state, “Emotions can facilitate or impede children’s academic engagement, work ethic, commitment, and ultimate school success” (Durlak et al. 2011, 405). As a result, by the time these same students enter first grade, they are more likely to be considered for retention, receive interventions, or be referred for special education testing.
The Transitional Kindergarten Student
TK students are unique in their developmental and experiential backgrounds. Although TK classes are typically composed of a chronologically similar age group, teachers recognize the student's’ unique needs and carefully plan and deliver an effective and developmentally appropriate educational program. Students entering the TK classroom will need high-quality instruction and support to develop social and emotional comp developmental trajectories of their students and identify the standards for learning that align with both students’ assessed needs and effective instructional strategies. TK teachers create cohesive curriculum plans that are reflective of individual and group learning needs. Decisions about what to teach in a TK classroom are guided by key CDE resources, including the recently published alignment document. Guidelines for selecting and adapting curriculum materials and lessons help TK teachers plan engaging encounters that address learning standards.
With thoughtful attention to the oral language environment, the appropriate use of scaffolding, and the balanced use of think-alouds, TK teachers support children’s learning across curricular areas. A modified kindergarten curriculum that challenges students, provides an active and engaging learning environment, and utilizes effective instructional strategies will support TK students for success in kindergarten.
Highly effective TK teachers seek and continually engage families as partners in fostering the development of children. They value the information shared by parents and use it to strengthen their teaching.
High-quality learning environments include outdoor settings where students are actively engaged. Tools that assess program quality may offer guidance and standardized descriptors of high-quality learning environments. Some tools evaluate physical space, others examine teacher–student interactions and instructional strategies, and additional tools assess both environment and educational interactions. Although TK teachers are not required to assess their program design and practices, doing so may lead to a deeper understanding of best practices and offer insights into program strengths and opportunities for improvement (Sugarman 2011). The TK classroom should be supplied with a variety of materials that are rotated over time. With a number of learning areas and materials, a designated area for storage should be identified for these resources. Creative solutions range from consolidated legal boxes to attractive baskets on top of permanent cabinets. Easy access ensures efficient program preparation and supports emergent learning. A well-designed TK environment that offers structured choice and extends learning to outdoor spaces does much to invite and engage students in the learning process. Integrated learning opportunities further extend conceptual learning and promote real uses of reading and writing. Through careful observation and thoughtful reflection, teachers plan learning experiences that match current student inquiry and curricular goals.
Assessment information is essential to teachers as they plan instruction. Effective teachers use observations and other assessment information they have gathered to inform their daily planning and to chart a path for success in kindergarten. They carefully and intentionally consider the learning experiences they will provide for the group as a whole, for small groups, and for individual students. Materials, environments, or routines are adapted based on assessed needs.
TK teachers who routinely make it a priority to invite parents to share information about their student’s progress and to communicate with families about their students’ development, strengthen home–school relationships and promote quality learning experiences for all students. A combination of informal conversation and the sharing of work samples, paired with formal parent– teacher conferences offer multiple opportunities for communication.
Professional development is necessary for program, teacher, and student success in any educational setting. Administrators and teachers can be kept up-to-date and informed about educational research, strategies for instruction, and methods of classroom management. Formal and informal professional development can serve complementary purposes in teacher education. Formal professional development is most effective when paired with informal opportunities to revisit, implement, and refine new concepts in instruction and classroom management. As teachers embark on their professional journeys, administrators effectively engage them in the professional development process by inviting them to share ideas for action and topics for consideration.
Questions parents need to ask about their 4 YO
- Does my child initiate conversations with others?
- Does my child like to play with other children?
- Is my child willing to share materials?
- Is my child afraid of new situations and environments?
- Can my child easily accept “no” for an answer?
- Can my child keep his or her hands to self?
- Does my child show an interest in learning letters and numbers?
- Can my child sit attentively when being read to?
- Does my child show good self-control?
- Does my child have preschool experience?